“On this day,” was the promise to the country, “we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for too long have strangled our politics.”
Do you remember those words? They are from Barack Obama’s inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2009, before his presidency was sidelined by petty grievances, false promises, and worn-out dogmas. Do you remember where you were on that day? I was in bed eating Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream with one of my best friends from Arizona. My parents were in Washington, D.C., for the big party. I don’t think most people in my position would be masochistic enough to watch the entire inauguration on TV, but this wasn’t the time for TiVo.
I remember thinking, “I sure as hell hope he means what he says.” Looking back, it seems like I had a reason to be cynical.
Two and a half years later, we’ve traded hope and unity not only for politics as usual in Washington, but for something far worse. We’ve entered a new chapter in government selfishness, new levels of disillusionment and public distrust of elected officials, something that the Twitter world has dubbed the “Obamaclypse” or “Barackalypse.” The month of August has been dogged with an onslaught of news regarding the economy starting with the debt-ceiling fiasco. Standard & Poor’s downgraded our government’s credit rating. And the Dow tumbled more than 600 points, making it the worst drop in the stock market since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008. My anxiety, along with that of so many others in my generation, continues to grow because we will bear the burden from all of this that may or may not be something that is solvable in my lifetime.
Remember, we were the ones who witnessed Columbine and Sept. 11, but even in the darkest times, there always seemed to be hope lingering on the horizon. For the first time in my lifetime, the future just looks grim. The baby boomers have dropped the ball on their burden of responsibility. It’s not simply that our economy seems to continue to spiral into recession. Washington is a complete mess. It’s become a venue for partisan bickering, where the needs of the working class just don’t matter. I am worried we are reaching some kind of breaking point when it comes to not only Americans but young Americans.
The last election was all about hope and change and ushering in a new beginning and phase in America. Not only have we not been given hope and change, but generation Y is feeling disillusionment and asking ourselves what exactly we have to look forward to. Friends of mine and friends of friends of mine are all essentially dealing with the same issues and fears no matter what their backgrounds or jobs; they are worried about what kind of future we are heading into and at the same time feeling lost about how we can band together to somehow prevent the asteroid of economic debt that seems to be headed straight for us. My generation grew up in the heyday of the '90s, with the Internet boom and the birth of overnight millionaires. But our politicians seem to be pushing personal agendas over the idea of making the world a better place for their children.
I am a person of great faith and idealism and have been in too many situations too many times to become an eternal pessimist regarding politics. That being said, the government and the current environment in Washington are testing my patience, and it is safe to say that the majority of Americans are way past having their patience tested. In the end, my faith may have to rely on members of my own generation. It seems we will inherit a mess with no other option but fixing it ourselves.